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Are Our Minds Without Fear And Our Heads Held High?

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These days, violence against women in India seems normal. It really doesn’t matter who she is, what she is wearing and which household she is from. Why?

A little girl played in the mud outside her house with the household’s trusted servant. The servant told her an ant had climbed up her thigh and will bite her. He then took her to a shed in the garden and undressed her on the pretext of finding the ant, and then while ‘looking’ for it, he masturbated.

On a cold winter morning, a teenager wrapped in warm shawls, sat on a bus coming back with her aunt and her little sister. A very friendly man sat beside her and chatted away with the aunt for the entire journey. All the time, taking advantage of the shawls, his hand was wandering under the girl’s dress. The girl could not bring herself to tell her aunt why she wanted to change seats. So, she sat where she was, enduring the shameless man’s molestation while wishing she had a pin to stab his hand.

It was a festive day. Two girls were happily walking from their house to a sweet shop to buy some sweetmeats. The roads were deserted; no one wanted to be out on a cold day when it was a holiday. Suddenly there was a guy walking besides them, making lewd comments. They wanted to retaliate, but saw that he had a jeep full of cronies crawling along beside him. They turned and fled, sweetmeats forgotten!

All the examples above are true incidents that I personally know of. And there are so many more stories of molestation, abuse, violence amongst the close group of people I know. It makes you wonder how could such a small number of women have undergone so much abuse and kept quiet about it. But then you look at some data and it’s all out in the open. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crime against women rose 26.7%  in 2013. And it’s shocking that the capital city of the country is probably the most unsafe for women. The rate of crime against women in Delhi UT in 2013 was 146.8 as compared to the national average of 52.2, which by itself is a very high figure. In just 4 years (from 2009 -2013) the incidents of rape alone have increased by 57.53%. And these are just reported numbers! Imagine if we knew the real numbers and what they would say about the state of women in this country.

Rabindranath Tagore envisioned an India…

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…

…Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way…

…Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Where is the India that resonates with these beautiful lines?

Every time a rape case comes in the media limelight, there is an angry outburst of populace on social media sites, protests marches, and heated debates on news channels. Celebrities condemn the act, politicians say ‘ye to hota hi hai’, and the custodians of law and order in the country watch impassively. Take for instance the brutal gang rape of a 23-year old woman on Dec 16, 2012 that shook the nation. With unprecedented speed the rapists were caught and sentenced to death. Once the furor around the case died, so did the fervor of hanging them and they are still alive long after the victim died from her gruesome injuries. And the convict has the guts to say that it was all her fault. The ‘clear stream of reason’ is clearly missing. It’s been more than two years since this incident, and crimes against women are still unabated.

Just the thought that it could happen to me or to someone I know, is enough to give me nightmares at night.

Just the thought that it could happen to me or to someone I know, is enough to give me nightmares at night. Then the incident involving an Uber driver has ensured that I’m never comfortable in a cab again. Is my ‘mind without fear’? No it’s not. I am living in the 4th most unsafe country for women. But heads are held high, of those who rape, abuse and objectify women. They roam free, boast about their exploits and laugh at the judiciary, and the society promotes their existence.

Let’s fight the cause, not just the cases

I am not writing to comment on how all these offenders must be hanged or castrated. I think at this point I will be thankful if they are at least arrested and booked. I think the issue is much deeper than that. Prevention is better than punishment. We need to take a closer look at why men do this? Are they not afraid of repercussions? Of what it will mean to their families or their livelihoods?

Men are brought up to understand that their sexual prowess and frequent display of it is what makes them a ‘mard’.

And the truth is – they are not; because only men enjoy sexual freedom in this country. They are brought up to understand that their sexual prowess and frequent display of it is what makes them a ‘mard’. These monsters are not born, but created by us. With our twisted ideologies, misplaced sense of right and wrong, our double standards, stereotypes and prejudices, we have lost sight of where we are headed. India is a nation caught between the past and the future. The chasm between the two India’s that exist together – one bound to tradition and religion, and the other committed to growth and future – is the breeding ground for these monsters.

Where is the clarity of thought? Should the victim of rape suffer social shame or the perpetrator? Why are the moral police who are quick to highlight ‘dress’ issues silent when it is about child rapists? By making sex a taboo topic, we are only building up curiosity. By teaching our boys to expect entitlement we are creating a generation of molesters. To all you parents who bring up their sons to treat women like objects, I ask – where is my heaven of freedom?

Image of ladies protesting via Shutterstock

Supriya is a single mom, entrepreneur, marketer, editor, author, and facilitator – on the quest to

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